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Ceasefire Aimed at Ending Yemen's 'Forgotten War' Marred by Violence
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A shaky truce has stopped the fighting in only some parts of Yemen, as UN-backed efforts get under way to end a civil war that has killed 6,200 Yemenis and enabled al-Qaeda to set up its own mini-state in the south of the country.

Often referred to as the “forgotten war”, the conflict has torn the Yemen apart after Saudi Arabia and a coalition of nine Sunni states intervened in March last year to stop the victory of Houthi rebels in alliance with armed forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition has inflicted heavy loss of life on civilians, including 97 people, 25 of them children, who died when bombs were dropped on a crowded market place in north western Yemen on 15 March.

“People are no longer able to live because of the war which destroyed everything,” Shawqi Abdullah, a taxi driver in the capital Sanaa told a news agency as the truce took hold. “We had a calm night with no planes flying and fear of bombs. And we hope that the war ends.”

Despite intervention by Saudi Arabia and its coalition against the Houthis, whom they see as Iranian-backed Shia rebels, the Houthis still hold Sanaa. But, though residents there said they had spent a quiet night, there was continual fighting in the city of Taiz in the south west that is under siege by the Houthis. Peace talks are due to begin under UN auspices in Kuwait on 18 April, but a year of fighting has left Yemen fragmented as different armed groups of uncertain loyalty battle for control of every province.

Saudi Arabia and the Sunni states are backing the government-in-exile of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which claims legitimacy because it is internationally recognised, though it was never elected. With Saudi support, its forces recaptured Aden last July, but the port city and southern Yemen have collapsed into chaos. The Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are being pushed further north, but they have not been defeated and were able to hold a defiant rally in Sanaa to celebrate their resistance a year after the start of the coalition bombing campaign.

The outside world has paid limited attention to the war in Yemen because the country is isolated and there has been no mass exodus of refugees and migrants heading for the European Union. So bad are conditions that some Yemenis have fled to Somalia, one of the most impoverished, divided and war-ravaged countries in the world. Even before the war, Yemenis were very poor and many do not have the money to take flight, however bad local conditions.


As in Iraq, Syria and Libya, the greatest beneficiaries of the break-up of Yemen have been salafi-jiahadi movements, in this case al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group, which the US holds responsible for a series of bomb attacks on American targets, has expanded rapidly over the last year, seizing Mukalla, a city of 500,000 and the third biggest port in Yemen. AQAP makes an estimated $2 million (£1.4m) a day from goods and fuel being passing through the port, in addition to $100 million from raiding the local central bank according to a special report by Reuters titled: “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger – and richer.”

What Raqqa and Mosul are to Isis, Mukalla is to AQAP which has long been targeted by US drone strikes. It is now stronger than at any time for twenty years, with an estimated 1,000 fighters in Mukalla and control of a further 373 miles of coastline according to the report. Paradoxically Saudi Arabia claims that one of the purposes of its campaign is to deny “terrorists a safe haven in Yemen.” Isis have also made advances, but not to the same degree as al-Qaeda.

AQAP got its opportunity to expand when Saudi Arabia launched “Operation Decisive Storm” in March 2015, Yemeni army troops were withdrawn from Mukalla and AQAP took over. With revenues from taxes and smuggled fuel, it has been able to grow in popularity and is regarded as less cruel than Isis. Its leaders are able to arm their fighters with weapons and ammunition abandoned by the army that is fighting Saudi-backed forces alongside the Houthis.

The ceasefire that was meant to begin at midnight on Sunday may be inadequate, but it is the most serious attempt to end the fighting in a year. It may be a sign that Saudi Arabia wants to extricate itself from an inconclusive war that it is not winning and which, instead, has produced a stalemate with the Houthis still holding Sanaa and with AQAP creating its own state on the southern coast.

Patrick Cockburn’s ‘Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East’ (OR Books) is published this month

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Yemen 
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  1. tbraton says:

    What the sorry story in Yemen emphasizes above all, with the establishment of another Al Qaeda base, is the utter brainlessness of those responsible for U.S. foreign policy, the neoconservatives. The U.S. has backed this pointless war waged by Saudi Arabia, a theocracy ruled by the most backward and primitive sect of Islam in the world, which has led to the establishment of another base of power by Al Qaeda, the backward Islamic organization which allegedly attacked the U.S. on 9/11. Does anybody in the current U.S. government have a brain? I am certain that Obama lacks one, for he rejected the sage advice of his former SOD Gates that the U.S. had no vital interests in Libya and proceeded to wage war against Libya and overthrow Qaddafi, producing a total mess in that country and neighboring African countries and Europe.

    • Replies: @WorkingClass
  2. @tbraton

    “Does anybody in the current U.S. government have a brain?”

    Our imperial masters have the same kind of brains that we have. They only seem stupid to men of good will because they are in the service of evil.

  3. virgile says:

    My opinion is that the USA has been directing the Saudi Kingdom in several traps. Syria first and Yemen second.
    The intention of the USA is to weaken the Saudi regime to force him to accept that Iran has an important regional role and that it is no use to try to push Iran aside. The Saudis must accept that the Arab world is no more their exclusive possession.
    They fought hard to prove the contrary but they lost Syria, Iraq and Lebanon to Iran and they are about to loose Yemen. Contrary to Syria and Lebanon, Yemen is Saudi Arabia’s direct neighbor and the presence of Iran sympathizers so close is a source of panic for the Saudi rulers, especially that Iraq is also its direct neighbor and under the control of Shias. That is why they have tried to crush the Houthis that they see as Iran’s agents.
    As they failed, Yemen’s Sunnis are now forced to share power with Shia Houthis, thus accepting a subtle presence of Iran at their door.
    Is it why Saudi Arabia has rushed to Egypt and Turkey to ensure a Sunni loyalty when they see the Shias successfully creeping in several Arab countries?

    • Replies: @No Second Israel
    , @Rehmat
  4. @virgile

    Are you a criminal zionist Jew?

    Your stupid ‘analysis’ brings zionist jews lies about Palestinians. Shut up zionist!

  5. Rehmat says:

    “The intention of the USA is to weaken the Saudi regime to force him to accept that Iran has an important regional role and that it is no use to try to push Iran aside.”

    That could be JOKE of the day. If that’s USA intentions – then the idiots in Obama administrations should weaken the Zionist entity – the greatest ally of Saudi ‘royal’ in the region against Iran. During 2013-2015, Saudi ‘royals’ gave $16 billion to the Zionist regime to maintain USA’s anti-Iran pressure via powerful Jewish Lobby.

    US vice-president has admitted that America has no problem with a nuclear Iran – but Netanyahu wants a regime change in Tehran.

  6. Rehmat says:

    YEMEN had been an ‘Zionist Project’ even before the creation of the Zionist entity in 1948.

    The western Jewish-controlled politicians and mainstream media have long declared the bloody conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen as Sunni-Shia conflict or “proxy wars” between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, they hate to admit that before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel supported Yemen’s Zaidi ruler Imam Muhammad al-Bader during Saudi-Egypt war in Yemen in 1962. At that time, anti-Israel Nasserite Egypt was the ‘mullah-ruled’ Iran.

    In 2014, former Jewish Senator Joe Lieberman boasted that next US major war would be fought in Yemen.

    A secret cable confirms that Tehran doesn’t supply arms to Houthis. The Zaidi Shia fighters buy them from the Yemeni black market and sometimes from Yemeni army.

    On July 20, 2015, Ariela Gross, director of German Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FEF) in Yemen, penned an article, saying that diplomacy is the only solution for Yemen. The FEF, established by Germany’s second largest political party, Social Democrats (SPD) in honor of its leader and country’s first president Friedrich Ebert, from 1919 until his death in office in 1925. Ebert was born to a Jewish mother, Katharina Hinkel (d. 1897).

    The leaders of the World Zionist Congress had realized the strategic importance of the Red Sea (which leads to Suez Cannal, Mediterranean and Dead Sea) being the only Sea route open to their land-locked Eretz-Israel dream. Yemen is located at the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden which is the major route of the oil tankers. Along this route, the other anti-Israel country happens to be Eritrea.

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